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5 Uses for Washing Soda

Updated: May 30


What’s so good about washing soda?


Washing soda (also known as soda crystals, laundry soda, or soda ash) is a valuable addition to your natural cleaning repertoire. Washing soda is simply powdered sodium carbonate, and like sodium bicarbonate it is an alkali, however it is much stronger with a pH of 11. (As a comparison, bicarb has a pH of 9.)


Washing soda has a number of properties that make it especially useful around the home. It is particularly effective at:

  • Breaking down acids and oils

  • Softening water

  • Cutting through soap scum

  • Removing stains


This combination of features makes it an obvious first choice for laundry applications, but it’s a useful eco-friendly workhorse for all sorts of other household cleaning tasks too. In this article we explore just five of our favourite ways to use washing soda around the home:


Packet of soda crystals and a jar labelled washing soda standing on a counter with a wooden scoop, pegs and a white towel

Washing soda for your laundry


As the name suggests, the most obvious uses for washing soda are in the laundry room. For example, it works brilliantly as a cost-effective and eco-friendly:

  • Laundry booster

  • Pre-wash

  • Stain removal treatment


Laundry booster

You can add washing soda to your wash along with your normal laundry detergent, where it will soften the water, boost your colours, and improve the stain removal properties of your detergent. And as a bonus, it will also help to prevent limescale build up in your washing machine.


To use washing soda as a laundry booster:

  • Just add two tablespoons of washing soda to the detergent dispenser of your washing machine.

  • Alternatively you can sprinkle the washing soda directly on top of your washing inside the drum before you start the wash cycle.


Pre-wash

You can also use washing soda as a stain removing pre-wash, where it is particularly good at removing ‘dried in’ stains (like the grey/brown soles of my daughter’s white socks). In this respect it works very like oxygen bleach, but is much cheaper to buy, so it is always a good place to start.


To use washing soda as a pre-wash:

  1. Dissolve 3 or 4 tablespoons of washing soda in a bowl of warm water. (Use cool water for protein stains like blood or egg, and for non colour-fast items.)

  2. Add the grubby clothes and leave them to soak for a couple of hours, or ideally overnight.

  3. Put the clothes into your washing machine and wash as normal.


Stain removing treatment

Washing soda is particularly effective at removing oil, blood, tea and coffee stains. It is safe for use with most fabrics but if you are unsure, try it on an inconspicuous area first.


To use washing soda as a stain remover:

  1. Mix together a couple of tablespoons of washing soda and a little water to form a paste.

  2. Smear the paste over the stain, rub it in well and leave it to get to work for a few minutes.

  3. Put the item into your washing machine and wash as normal.

Long row of washing hanging on a line against a blue sky


Cleaning your oven with washing soda


The beauty of using washing soda to clean your oven is that no noxious chemicals are released in the process. This makes it a much healthier option than commercial oven cleaners, particularly if you suffer from allergies or respiratory complaints, or have young children in the vicinity.


To clean your cooker with washing soda:


  1. Remove the shelves and grill pan from your oven. Fill your sink (or bath if the sink isn’t big enough) with warm water and add a couple of tablespoons of washing soda, and stir until the soda crystals have dissolved. Give the shelves and the grill pan a quick rinse with warm soapy water to remove any obvious grease and food residue, then soak them in the washing soda solution, whilst you get on with cleaning the rest of the cooker.

  2. For the oven, sprinkle washing soda on any residue or greasy spots then spray lightly with water to activate the soda, then leave it to get to work while you move on to the cooker top.

  3. For the cooker top or hob, take a spray bottle, add 500ml of warm water and a tablespoon of washing soda, then shake until the soda crystals have dissolved. Use the spray as you would a typical surface cleaner, spraying the surface and then wiping with a clean cloth. For really tough or encrusted stains, sprinkle a little of the soda crystals onto the stain and scrub it using a cloth or a natural scourer. The abrasive nature of the soda crystals should make light work of the stain removal process. Don’t use metal or harsh scourers as they can scratch your hob. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

  4. Once your cooker top is clean, go back to the oven. Using your cloth, gently scrub where you sprinkled the soda crystals earlier to remove any grease and residue, then use your spray to dissolve any grease and dirt from the back and sides of the oven. Wipe over thoroughly with a clean damp cloth to remove any residue.

  5. Having soaked your shelves and grill pan, remove them from the water and give any stubborn stains a quick rub with a scourer, rinse them in clean water, dry them lightly and return them to your nice, sparkling clean oven.


Cleaning your bathroom with washing soda


Washing soda is great at removing limescale, grease and soap scum, so it is perfect for use throughout your bathroom.


To clean your toilet, simply sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of washing soda around the toilet pan and give it a scrub with your toilet brush, then flush. The washing soda will also help reduce blockages in your pipes. When you’ve finished cleaning the toilet, leave the loo brush to soak in a washing soda solution to keep it clean and free from bacteria.


To clean your bathroom surfaces, including the sink, bath and shower, pour 500ml of warm water into a spray bottle and add one to two tablespoons of washing soda (depending on how hard the water is in your area). Shake until the soda crystals are dissolved, then spray the solution onto your surfaces, and leave it for a couple of minutes to get to work. Then wipe over with a clean, damp cloth, scrubbing gently at any stubborn marks. Rinse off thoroughly afterwards to remove any washing soda residue.


To clean grime and mildew from your vinyl shower curtain, spray it with the washing soda solution as described above, wait a few minutes then wipe clean. Or if you want an easy life, put the shower curtain into your washing machine with a couple of tablespoons of washing soda and wash on a gentle wash (according to the curtain's care instructions), then hang it up to dry.


Reviving chopping boards with washing soda


Plastic chopping boards are notorious for harbouring food stains and discolouration, and many people simply discard them when they start to look less than pristine. But instead of adding to landfill, you can use washing soda to bring new life to your chopping board:


  • For light staining, sprinkle washing soda onto your chopping board and using a clean, damp cloth, scrub the chopping board, to lift the stains. Then rinse and dry.

  • For heavier staining, fill a suitably sized bowl or sink with warm water, add a couple of tablespoons of washing soda and leave the chopping board to soak for a couple of hours, or ideally overnight. Then rinse and dry.


Washing soda in the garden

Washing soda consists of sodium carbonate which is a natural salt. Due to its high saline content, when washing soda is applied to plants they become dehydrated and die. Obviously, this applies to all plants, so you must apply the washing soda carefully to ensure that it only comes into contact with the weeds and not with your prize blooms.


Weeds in paving

For patios, paths and gravel (ie where you don’t want anything to grow) sprinkle washing soda in the gaps between your paving slabs, or between the gravel, and leave until the weeds start to wither and die above ground. Then remove the plants and as much root as possible, to prevent regrowth. Then flush the area with clean water to dilute any remaining salt, taking care to ensure that any run-off does not flow into your flower beds or ponds.


Weeds in flower beds

For weeds in your flower beds, you can carefully sprinkle washing soda over the plant, focussing on the root. You will need about 1 teaspoon per plant. Apply it very cautiously, to avoid contact with other plants that you are not trying to kill. Once the plant has started to die above ground you should remove it, and water the soil where it previously stood.


Another method is to dissolve one tablespoon of washing soda in a litre of water, and use this solution in a spray bottle, to target the specific weeds that you need to get rid of. Make sure that you spray at least 10 cm away from plants that you don’t want to harm. Spray the whole plant, but pay particular attention to the root. Remove the plant and roots once it has started to die off, and flush the soil with clean water afterwards.


Cleaning paths and patios

In addition to killing plants, washing soda is also great for cleaning dirt, moss and algae from paving slabs. You can either sprinkle the soda crystals directly onto the slabs and then wet them with a fine spray from a hose or watering can, or else mix up a solution of water and soda crystals in a spray bottle and spray this solution onto the slabs. Leave for a couple of days for the washing soda to take effect, then brush or scrape off the moss and dirt and rinse with plenty of water. Ensure that the run-off doesn’t flow into your flower beds or any ponds.


More information


For ideas and recipes for more homemade cleaning solutions:


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